Published Papers - Abstract 75

Goodger B, Mishra G, Byles J & Higginbotham N. Social support and older women in Australia: What is a healthy level? , ; :

Objectives: To estimate and describe the prevalence and effects of differing levels of social support (as measured by the Duke Social Support Index) on selected indicators of health and wellbeing among older women.Methods: Population based study using cross-sectional baseline data from 12,458 women aged 70-75 who completed a baseline survey for the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health.Results: Trend curves constructed using locally weighted regression between the Duke Social Support Index and health measures such as the SF-36 were monotonic. Higher social support scores were associated with increased scores on the SF-36. A plateau effect was not found between social support and any of the selected health measures. Four levels of social support were identified and found to reflect differential health benefits on analysis of covariance. Older women who were defined as having low support in comparison to those with very high support had significantly worse scores on the SF-36 and on other health measures. The prevalence of those with low and fair social support was estimated to be 22%.Discussion: Despite the limitations imposed by the cross-sectional nature of these data, results suggest that differing levels of social support can be defined and that they are associated with older women's health experiences. Applying these levels of the Duke Social Support Index may be useful in clinical care, epidemiological research, and health promotion activities.